New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to put the prosecutor who gave NFL running back Ray Rice a deal to keep him out of court on the bench as a Superior Court judge.
Jim McClain, prosecutor in Atlantic County, made national news in 2014 after he agreed to let Rice into a pretrial intervention program for the assault of his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in an elevator at Revel Casino.
Christie filed a notice of intent to nominate McClain for the position, along with Atlantic City Administrative Law judge William Todd Miller and Ventnor Municipal judge Mary Siracusa.
Per the Press of Atlantic City, the nominees will now be interviewed by the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee before a vote on each candidate is conducted.
McClain should be easily approved for the post. Atlantic and Cape May counties have seen a shortage of judges for a few years, leading to Christie’s appointments this week. Per sources who work closely with Atlantic County officials, McClain is well-liked and respected in the community, most notably for his fair treatment of those he has been tasked with prosecuting.
While McClain has a positive track record locally, his decision in the Rice case was understandably a hot-button topic in New Jersey after State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) called for a review of the case in the wake of McClain’s decision after the elevator video came out.
The NFL’s bungling of the Rice situation did McClain’s office no favors, as Roger Goodell’s questionably-light initial suspension was pilloried in the wake of the video’s release. McClain, who was then acting Atlantic County Prosecutor, was thrust into the center of a national conversation on domestic violence, in large part because of the questionable way the video was released, and whether or not Atlantic County law enforcement had shared the video with the NFL offices before Rice had been suspended.
McClain stayed out of the spotlight as best he could during the fallout, routinely declining requests for an interview in early September 2014. He did speak to Lynda Cohen of the Press of AC a few days after the video was released, suggesting the visual evidence had no impact on the outcome of the case.
“Even if they disagree with why I did what I did, I just want people to know the decision was made after careful consideration of the law, careful consideration of the facts, hearing the voice of the victim and considering all the parameters,” he said. “I want people to have confidence in this agency, even if they don’t agree with everything we do.”
“I’m very glad that people are repulsed by the video, because this type of violence is an ugly, ugly thing,” McClain said. “But the fact that this assault was on video makes it no more nor any less ugly than those hundreds of domestic violence situations where similar violence was inflicted on a victim and it’s not captured on videotape. Reality is reality whether it’s captured on videotape or not. And the reality of violence is that it is always ugly.”
The Associated Press reported at the time that only 70 of the more than 15,000 domestic assault cases in New Jersey from 2010 to 2013 were given pretrial intervention by the Superior Court.
Rice has never played in the NFL again after being released by the Ravens the day the video was published.
Goodell has become the least effective commissioner in professional sports, first for his underreaction in the Rice case and then his subsequent overreaction to every disciplinary case he has heard since. Goodell has spent countless hours trying to rehabilitate his own image as a leader under the guise of “protecting the shield” and has revamped the NFL’s executive hierarchy when it comes to player discipline and public relations.
McClain, the official whose decision set all of this in motion, will soon become a judge.